Friday, January 21, 2011

Jonah Hex Oscar possibility?

Yeah, it is true. Jonah Hex is on a short list of nominations for an Academy Award for Best Makeup. According to Hollywood Reporter:

Alice in Wonderland and The Fighter are among the seven films that remain in the makeup competition of the 83rd Academy Awards.
The additional titles are Barney's Version, Jonah Hex, True Grit, The Way Back andThe Wolfman.
On Jan. 22, members of the Academy's Makeup Branch will be invited to view 10-minute excerpts from each of the shortlisted films. Following the screenings, members will vote to nominate three films for Oscar consideration.
The 83rd Academy Awards nominations will be announced Jan. 25.

Let's take a look at what I think should be the final three and why:

The Way Back: Appears that the makeup consists mainly of horrible effects of brutal weather and aging of actors. A possibility, but it has been seen/done before.

Barney's Version: Again, showing actor's through various stages of life. Seen it quite often

The Wolfman: Transformations into frightening creatures? Yeah, I think this should make the final three.

The Fighter: Boxing wounds? Uh, been done before and I don't see anything ground-breaking here.

Alice in Wonderland: I think I enjoyed the makeup more than the film itself, but I wonder how much was makeup and how much was CG? Still, one of my picks for final three.

Jonah Hex: I'm not being partial here, but I know some of the new techniques they developed for Brolin's makeup and I think they pulled off an entire film with very good makeup. Last of the final three.

True Grit: Last of the bunch and best film of the year (that I have seen) including best actor. However, there is nothing here, makeup-wise, that we haven't seen in any other film nominated.

My picks? Jonah Hex, The Wolfman, Alice in Wonderland. We'll find out on the 25th.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Addition to the side gutter - another blog

Four Color Promises is a new blog that covers comic book ads, and you can't have too many of those kind of posts amongst the intrawebz. Drop on over and give Shannon a look-see and tell 'em I sent ya.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jonah Hex: Two-Gun Mojo #1 "Slow Go Smith"

Jonah Hex: Two-Gun Mojo #1 Aug 1993
"Slow Go Smith"
Joe E. Lansdale, story - Tim Truman and Sam Glanzman, art and cover

Six and a half years after our last story of Jonah Hex, within the pages of a Vertigo imprint, our fearless bounty hunter surfaces once again. This time, the art is grittier, the dialogue harsher, the townsfolk dumber. All in all, this ain't your father's Jonah Hex. We'll have to decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing. (and it may end up being both!)

Back then Vertigo had no ads, so the inside cover was the title page and credits and the first page was  splash page of Jonah with a piece of scrollwork bearing this quote:

"He was a hero to some, a villain to others, and wherever he rode people spoke his name in whispers." - John Albano

Can we pause here for just a moment while I climb upon my house and throw myself off in disgust? That quote is from Weird Western Tales #26, the first place it appeared in print, and that issue was penned by Michael Fleisher. John Albano, if he wrote those words, never had them appear in a book penned by him. I like the idea of paying tribute to the man who created Jonah Hex, but how about doing it accurately and maybe also paying honor to the man who wrote well over 100 stories about Jonah Hex? What in the hell did Michael Fleisher do to continually get shafted when it comes his contributions regarding Jonah Hex?

The Hex we see on the splash page has long hair in a ponytail, a more ornate Confederate coat and holds his pistol with his pinky extended. Now on to the story.

The tale opens with Jonah being drug through the countryside by three of the most disgusting looking thugs as of yet unveiled in western comics. The comic is narrated by Jonah in a minor tongue-in-cheek style, downplaying the danger he is in. The thugs stop dragging him and then slip a noose around his neck and put him up on his horse. It appears that Jonah killed their sister but Jonah contends that she was trying to rob him. They say that spitting tobacco juice in her eye as she was dying was uncalled for. Jonah admits that his aim was off since he was trying to spit into the bullet hole in her head.

At that instant, a shot rings out, and Jonah's horse is shot straight through the head as we hear cursing from a nearby hill. Another shot and one of the thugs drops dead alongside Jonah's dead horse. Sadly, with Jonah's horse dead, Hex is left dangling from the end of the rope. He barely manages to get a few fingers between the noose and his neck but that isn't helping much.

Just then a raggedy grizzled old man comes walking over the hill, shoots the second thug and as the final thug rides off, the old man takes careful aim and shoots the horse dead. Of course, this whole time Jonah is still dangling from from the noose having barely gotten a couple of fingers between the rope and his neck. The old man cuts Jonah down with a sword.

Jonah takes note that the old man missed one of the horses and the old guy asks if Hex is complaining but Jonah says he's just stating a fact. The old guy says he's been hunting these guys for the bounty. Hex introduces himself and the old man recognizes the name, introduces himself as Slow Go Smith. Smith goes about robbing the cadavers and when Smith offers to split with Hex, he replies that he doesn't pick dead men's pockets. Smith then uses his sword to cut off the heads of the men and stuff them into a sack.

Jonah then mounts the remaining live horse and Smith gets on his (safely hiding in some nearby bushes) and they ride off into the setting sun.

Next day they ride into Mud Creek, Texas where Professor Argon is charging folks 25 cents to get their picture taken with a couple of corpses in coffins. As Hex and Smith ride past one fella asks if they want to buy some post cards of the Price Gang, however the Price boys ain't the ones being photographed, those are the Traywicks. Fella says some guys surprised the Traywicks coming out of the cafe that morning and shot them dead. Jonah lands some tobacco spit on the fella's shoe and asks how many HE shot. The guy confesses that he was taking care of some Chamber of Commerce business when it all went down.

Hex and Smith dismount and walk off but the guy keeps pestering them, trying to sell postcards of the Price boys, what are stuffed and stacked over at the livery. Hex says he wouldn't want to buy cards with blood on them. The Commerce guy replies "What blood?" and Hex states "Yorn, you don't get away from me." The guy commences to caterwalling but another townsfolk explains that he was just threatened by Jonah Hex "his own damn self. He's killed more men than Hell has souls."

Smith and Hex walk into the Sheriff's office and deliver the bag of heads in order to collect the bounty on the Traywick's. Turns out the men the townsfolk shot were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Sheriff asks how Jonah got his scar. The reply?

Sheriff explains that since he already paid out the bounty it'll be a couple of days until he can get some more reward money. That means Hex and Smith are gonna have to hang around town for a spell. As they head for the saloon they pass a discarded flyer for Doc "Cross" Williams Wagon of Miracles.

In the saloon the bartender asks Jonah how he got his scar. The reply?

A couple of locals are playing cards and one dumps over his beer and calls the Indian barmaid over to clean it up. He grabs her and tells her to use her tongue and forces her face to the table. Hex busts a bottle across the local's head and when the other one draws on him, Jonah kicks him to the ground, places a boot on his head and forces HIM to lick the manure off his buddy's boots.

The bartender starts to pull a rifle and Smith grabs his pistol and throws it upside the barkeep's head. Hex holds a pistol to the local's head until the boots are clean, then Hex asks Smith why he threw the pistol. Smith says he had a better chance of hitting what he was aiming at. Hex runs the locals off and he and Smith stay in the saloon most of the night.

Very much later they head for the hotel and ask for rooms. The hotel manager states that they only have one available. Hex and Smith eye each other and decide to share the bed.

Of course, later that night Hex learns that Smith is a horrendous snorer and Smith learns that Hex won't put up with it. Smith finds himself out in the hall and eventually ends up at the livery. The livery owner says he'll charge Smith the same rate as a horse and then they walk past the bodies of the Price boys. The owner says that since Smith saw the bodies, he'll have to charge him a nickel as well. Smith replies to put it on Hex's tab.

Jonah is back in the room trying to fall back asleep but Smith has some troubles of his own. He's awakened by someone walking towards him in the stables. He draws his gun and shoots the stranger five times point blank, but the man keeps drawing closer.

Hex hears the shots and realizes they are coming from the livery. More shots are fired and Hex climbs out the window and drops to the ground to investigate.

Back at the stable, Smith runs out of bullets and we see a rotting bullet-riddled body of the Price boy pull a pistol and shoot Smith dead.

Statistics for this Issue
Men killed by Jonah - 0
Running Total - 487 (432 past, 55 future)
Jonah's injuries - Drug behind horses and hung by the neck
Timeline - There ain't no telling. This story does cover two days and two nights, but this is a totally different look for Hex so we can't place it among the other books based on his outfit.

Gothic Horror and Westerns seem like they belong together. The time was full of blood and guts and superstition with folks often not asking questions, just shooting the hell out of stuff. So I can see how they would make a good match. Is it good here? Well, so far.

This West is a lot grittier, a lot mangier, and a lot less welcoming than anything we've seen before. Heck, the world of 2050 was a lot more appealing to me and they had giant grasshoppers! The story is told from Hex's perspective, with the captioning being Hex relating the tale, something that wasn't done a lot in early nineties but is so much in vogue now, with a colored caption and small symbol indicating who is 'talking'. 

At this point in time, Lansdale had some novels under his belt, but this was his first foray into comic books. I hadn't seen any of Truman's work but I recognized Glanzman from the Haunted Tank and other war books that he had done. His sketchy look mad everything have a very gritty feel and I think worked quite well. Truman's populace of the Old West was quite often filled with horrible ugly people that looked like the villains in a Disney film (only worse) or a Dick Tracy strip.

All in all, I did enjoy the book and looked forward to the rest. How does THAT idea play out? Pretty well, but you know, comic companies quite often go back to the same well too many times.

And, oddly enough, I think my family is related to the Price boys. (looking at the time stamp of this post, I started this back on Oct 10th of 2010. Longest I ever took for a review.)

Next Issue: Zombies are all too real (and I'm too lazy to find the next issue to write a snappy teaser.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

House Ads #32

I still love these House ads because they would throw two completely different books together in one ad. If they did this today, what two books could you see in an ad like this?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pitchman-A-Go-Go #87

For an exciting toy this is a pretty dull ad. I never remember seeing a Russian G.I. Joe.

Monday, January 10, 2011

We Interrupt This Blog.... #22

.. to help you carry all that junk in your trunk...

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Jonah Hex movie in the news once again!

Yup, the words JONAH HEX are being uttered again and at this time of year it can only mean one thing.... awards. Not just ANY awards.... THE RAZZIES!!!

From Moviefone:
Start rooting for your favorite bad movie of 2010 because the Golden Raspberry Award (aka Razzie) nominations will be announced Jan. 24. A shortlist of possible Worst Picture nominees has just been released.

According to the Los Angeles Times
Awards Tracker blog, the 12 finalists are 'Little Fockers,' 'Sex and the City 2,' 'The Expendables,' 'Grown Ups,' 'Clash of the Titans,' 'Killers,''The Bounty Hunter,' 'Yogi Bear,' 'Jonah Hex,' 'The Last Airbender,' 'Vampires Suck' and 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.'

That is some tough competition.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Many Phases of Jonah Hex - The Complex Hex

This phase of Jonah Hex is a hard one to pin down regarding which issue it starts and what issues it covers, but of course, it ends with the end of the Jonah Hex book. It does overlap with the Tragic Hex in many ways and it may actually be more tied to Fleisher's storytelling than any actual change in Jonah Hex himself.

The keynotes of the Complex Hex would be:
  • Long overlapping storylines
  • Growing supporting cast.
In issue #50, not only did Fleisher introduce Emmy Lou Hartley, a woman that Jonah would shun and then turn to, he started a chain of events that would reveal some more of Jonah's past as well as build up a group of people that we would start to care about. It took Jonah from a lone gunman with a friend-of-the-month-who-winds-up-dead-or-betraying-Hex to a man with a circle of influence that would shape and direct his life.

Fleisher started weaving stories together and actually had some story arcs end in the middle of the issue. The exit of Mei Ling tied in with the return of Emmy Lou and then melded into the abduction of Mei Ling. Mei Ling leaving again opened the door for Emmy Lou once again and all of that tied into the Cassie Wainwright revenge storyline that also morphed into the crazy Manitou and slowly ended up with Jonah in jail. Adrian Sterling surfaced once Emmy was abducted and in some stories we had a page of Jonah, a page of Mei Ling, a page of Emmy, a page of J.D. Hart, and a page of Adrian.

While it seemed like a lot was happening, it also seemed like nothing was happening and oddly enough, I loved it. The complex Hex was much more that a book about a scarred bounty hunter, it became the story of his estranged wife, his blonde girlfriend, his Marshall friend that was putting the moves on his wife, two enemies teaming up against him, another crazed lunatic showing up, and girl after girl after girl falling in love with him and he in love with them.

This last point probably is the main point in the complex Hex. The man's life was a whirlwind and I'm sure that during this time his head and heart were a whirlwind as well. His wife leaves, memories of his dead fiance are resurrected and it appears that every blonde in the old west was throwing themselves at him. Hex even ends up leaving "the West" and stay in New Orleans for some time, attempting to 'blend in' to a society, while somewhat uproarious by today's standards, was still decades more refined than anything Jonah had encountered.

Jonah, I think, has learned to suppress his emotions for a very long time as a defense against his father. Mei Ling tapped into those emotions and Jonah started living by his heart rather than his head. Of course, we see the disaster that became of their relationship, so Jonah goes back to living with his head. Until, of course, those emotions start stirring within him once again with the vendetta against the killers of Cassie Wainwright.

It's at this point Jonah re-channels his emotions, moving them from his heart to, shall we say, an organ much lower in the scheme of things. This leads him to Emmy Lou and eventually Adrian Sterling. With Adrian, Jonah suppresses everything that his is, except for his hat, and tries to fit into society. All of this for a relationship that on Adrian's side is a weapon against her former fiance and her father and on Jonah's side is a weak attempt to put away his gun-filled lifestyle (such as what Mei Ling requested of him) in an attempt to convince himself that he was in love when in reality he is in lust.

The Complex Hex is a Hex that entails not only an erratic and unorthodox manner of story-telling, but it entails an erratic and unorthodox manner of looking at the old West and the heart of a ruthless man.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Return of Bruce Wayne #3 "The Bones of Bristol Bay" and #4 "Dark Knight, Dark Rider"

The Return of Bruce Wayne #3 August 2010
"The Bones of Bristol Bay"
Grant Morrison, story - Yanick Paquette and Michel Lacombe, art - Andy Kubert, cover

This appearance is more of a cameo, really, but it does give us a little bit more than a last panel reveal of Jonah Hex. The bulk of the story is devoted to Bruce Wayne versus Blackbeard. The last two pages are what we are interested in...

We are somewhere along a coast and we meet two men in a graveyard. They are discussing that they have to meet a man here in a huge haunted house that has been haunted since Judge Solomon's brother died in the caves. They speak of the mansion never having been finished and how their lives have been messed up since going out west. They also talk of having to meet a big-time spooky gunslinger.

As they approach the mansion, a voice beckons them into the parlor and we see a hand of cards, Aces and eights, on a table.  The man, Jonah Hex, tosses a joker toward the table and tells the men he figures they're men of reason since they had the guts to meet him on cursed and haunted ground.

The men state that they have brought down some sort of fury upon their heads, it never tires, it never stops. They present a primitive Batarang, saying that it was dug out of one of their shoulders. Their boss will pay triple of what is in the bag they brought if Hex can kill this thing that is after them. Then they ask is Hex is ready to prove that he is the best as everyone says that he is.

The next page reveals Bruce Wayne/Batman is 1800's garb, astride a horse.

Statistics for this issue
Men killed by Jonah - 0
Running Total - 487 (432 past, 55 future)
Jonah's Injuries - None
Timeline - With the reveal of the Deadman's hand, I'm somewhat quick to assume that this takes place after the death of Wild Bill Hickok but there is no direct reference to a Deadman's hand so that is no help. I would probably have to know more about the timeline of the series to pin this one down more precisely. The hand of cards reveals more as told in the Annotation at Comics Alliance.

Page 30: The mansion here is Wayne Manor -- Judge Solomon Wayne and his brother Joshua had purchased it unfinished from Van Derm, largely so they could use the caves as part of the Underground Railroad. Joshua died, as referenced here, playing a masked avenger role to save some escaping slaves. Note Hex's hand of cards - 8A8A, or "H.A.H.A." (with H as the 8th letter of the alphabet), the Joker's Dead Man's Hand from "Batman R.I.P." -- named such, by the way, for being the hand Wild Bill Hickok had in poker when he got offed.. It's worth noting, though, that here the cards are all black, rather than black and red as in the Joker's hand -- perhaps representing that instead of the punchline of life and death, we're dealing with the death that is life?

Page 31
: Of course, the first panel here makes the Joker allusion utterly blatant.

One thing I especially enjoyed was the juxtaposition of Jonah Hex's scar next to the iconic Joker card. For some reason it gave me chills. It's a nice cameo with some nice artwork.

The Return of Bruce Wayne #4 Sept 2010
"Dark Knight, Dark Rider"
Grant Morrison, story - Georges Jeanty and Walden Wong, art - Andy Kubert, cover

I'll be covering this issue a little more indepth because Jonah appears throughout it more. The keyword is "appears". The story starts with the gents from last issue slaughtering a family, hanging the father, killing the young son, and making off with the daughter and a small box with a bat symbol on it. They ride off, leaving the mother holding her dead son, her husband's corpse hanging in a tree as the rain falls.

She prays for a dark avenging angel to rescue her and we see Bruce Wayne/Batman appear.

Gotham City: The two men have been joined by a third (who was also at the house) and Jonah Hex. They are explaining how they encountered this bat creature back west and that they have hired Hex to work for "Monsewer Sauvage". They enter a gambling hall and introduce Hex to Vandal Savage.

Savage is pouring himself a stiff dose of laudanum because, while he can't die, the cancer he has is still eating him alive. Savage asks Hex if he cut himself shaving (nice little nod to the original WWT tales, there) and says that he would offer Hex some, but doesn't want to ruin Hex's aim. Hex declines anyway and clarifies that he has been hired to kill a mystery man, at least that is all he could understand from Savage's lackys.

Savage explains about a cowboy in black that have been giving Chuck and Lucky problems and Savage wants an end put to it since they have work to do. Hex comments that Savage is paying and then asks about what is behind a nearby door since it smells like they are burning sage and something else it that other room. Savage replies that it's complicated and it has something to do with Bonaparte.

Just then the door opens and Midnight Horse stumbles out (thank you, Comics Alliance for helping me with that part). Horse remarks that he is no longer needed but if the box is opened it will be the end of the world. Jonah states "End of the world's extra" as Chuck tosses a roll of bills to him. Savage says that there is more, always more, as soon as that demon is put down.

We cut to outside the gambling hall in the rain (however, the artwork makes it appear to be a small western town, rather than large Gotham City). Four men confront Batman and they end up with batarangs in their shooting arms. Batman ends up on the roof, taking out a guard. Inside, Horse shouts that HE is coming for the box, causing Hex to ask what has Horse been chewing. Savage replies that Hex can have either money or answers, not both.

Savage tells Chuck and Lucky to bring in the mystery man so Hex can kill him and orders Horse back into the room to open the box. Now that seems weird, you hire the best bounty hunter in the world and send to grunts out to drag in a mysterious bat-man so the bounty hunter can shoot him. I would send out Hex to earn his dang money!

Hex says that they can spare all the hoodoo, just point him to the target (!?!?!? He's a bounty HUNTER!) so he can get out of there.

Inside the room is Thomas Wayne(?), questioning the daughter from earlier, getting her to open the box. Horse enters the room, there is an argument and Wayne shoots and kills Horse, sending him crashing through the door and back into the room with Savage and Hex. Savage asks Hex to help him fill some old saddlebags with gold bars. Wayne exits the room, holding the box and dragging the girl with him.

Outside, Chuck and Lucky are tracking down Batman in the fog. One of them gets jerked up into the shadows and the other turns and shoots the third thug as he's trying to help. Suddenly Batman jumps out of the fog (we then learn they are inside (?)) and kicks the remaining thug down into the gambling tables.

Outside, Savage, the girl, the box, and Wayne are making a break for it in a covered wagon through the streets of Gotham. Hex is riding alongside on his horse. Batman swoops down, landing on the wagon. Hex shoots at Batman, hitting him in the left shoulder, Batman throws a batarang, hitting Hex in the right arm and knocking him off his horse.

The wagon is careening towards the docks where Alan Wayne is contemplating suicide and as Thomas Wayne battles Batman, Savage is fighting the girl and then the whole shooting match overturns on the dock, narrowly missing Alan Wayne and crashes into the water. Batman encounters Alan Wayne and the girl, the girl opens the box by whistling to it, Vandal Savage knocks out Thomas Wayne before he can shoot everyone, Batman beats the crap out of Thomas Wayne as Wayne calls out to Hex.

Jonah comes striding out of the rain, holding a pistol on Batman. Wayne demands that Hex shoot, while the girl begs him not to. Hex replies:

and shoots Batman, causing him to fall off the dock into the water, never to surface. There is closing dialogue from Alan Wayne explaining that Hex rode off to meet his destiny, we see Jonah Hex riding into the sunset, looking at a batarang, his saddlebags stuffed with the gold bars. A few bars lay in the sand behind him and we are unsure if he has tossed them aside or they have accidentally fallen out.

Statistics for this Issue
Men Killed by Jonah -  0
Running Total - 487 (432 past, 55 future)
Jonah's Injuries - Batarang in right bicep.
Timeline -  Unclear, right after last issue.

It's hard to rate the 4th issue of a 6 part series when you don't follow the series, so I won't try. I'll just go into the characterization of Hex. Let me just say: What the HELL?!?!?! The whole idea of hiring a bounty hunter and having him just sit around waiting for some thugs to drag the prey to him is absolutely nuts. We should have seen Hex on the rooftops attempting to track Batman down. But since this is a Batman title, he gets all the glory and everyone else stands around letting Batman be all spooky and stuff.

Hex just working for the cash is nice, especially shutting up when Savage tells him that he can have money or answers.  Jonah shooting Batman in the end seemed appropriate, since he did have a score to settle for the batarang in the arm. And i did like the idea of Hex ending up with Napolean Bonaparte's gold, but it is very unclear as to why it's on the ground in the end.

The artwork was murky and made it hard to follow the story. The previous issue had art that I could follow, even though I didn't know the whole storyline.

I would give this about a 3 out of 10 for a Hex appearance, not great and Hex didn't do much, but it was better than his appearance in Swamp Thing.